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March 14th, 2023

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Part 2: pH of the Body, Water & the Food We Eat

[This is Part Two of a 4-part article series entitled ‘pH of the Body, Water & the Food We Eat’. See Part 1, Part 3 & Part 4.]

The Body’s Amazing Mechanisms for pH Balance

There are strongly held and highly charged opinions about the importance of making oneself more ‘alkaline’. The following clarifications will be addressed here in Part Two of this 4-part article series.

The Rhythm and Precision of pH Balance

As the day dawns and we wake up to a new day, our body requires acids to fuel our activities and alertness, and to activate immunity from contact with foreign substances and the world beyond our own body.

As the day ends, our body becomes more alkaline to support its nighttime work of healing, rest and repair.

This daily alkaline/acid swing is managed by the body while maintaining tightly regulated pH levels for the various body fluids and functions. For instance, the pH of the blood and extracellular fluid must be maintained within a very narrow range (pH 7.35 – 7.45) to prevent acidosis (too much acid) or alkalosis (too alkaline). Either of these conditions can result in the failure of vital functions.

Your Lungs & Kidneys Maintain pH Balance in the Body

The body has several powerful mechanisms by which it regulates its requirements for acid-alkaline balance. These mechanisms are:

  1. The lungs 2
  2. The kidneys 3
  3. Buffering agents– especially the bicarbonate buffering system 4
A buffering system is a chemical process that resists changes in pH when acids or bases (alkaline substances) enter or are produced in the body. Buffers work by binding or releasing H+ (hydrogen ions). 1

Here is how the remarkable coordination between these systems works to maintain critical pH levels within your body.

CO2 (carbon dioxide) is a by-product of your metabolic processes, including all the food that you digest. CO2 dissolves in the blood to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) which then becomes bicarbonate (HCO3–) and the hydrogen ion (H+).

CO2 + H2O ⇆ H2CO3 ⇆ HCO3 + H+

If your blood becomes too acidic (excess of H+ ions), the body raises the blood pH by increasing respiration so that more CO2 is exhaled through the lungs. If your blood becomes too alkaline (excess of bicarbonate), respiration will slow down to build up CO2.

The kidneys participate in this process by excreting and reabsorbing bicarbonate (HCO3-). Kidney excretion produces new bicarbonate ions which are supplied to the blood to replace bicarbonate used to buffer acid. Excess acidity or alkalinity accumulated in the kidneys is urinated out of the body.

This self-sustaining cycle is how the body maintains its pH levels. The body depends upon you keeping it well hydrated in order to carry out these complex processes well.

Abnormalities in pH are a Symptom, not the Cause, of Disease.

Abnormalities in the pH of various body fluids are indicative of a disorder with which the body is trying to cope. For instance, research suggests that dangerous changes in blood pH are a symptom of a severe condition, not the cause of the disorder.5 Causation and correlation are not the same.

Acid Foods Do Not Cause Acidosis

Acidosis is a condition where there is too much acid in the blood and/or extracellular fluid. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH (a measure of acidity) in balance. It is usually the result of serious illness or poisoning. Acidosis is not caused by an acidic diet.6 (More about pH and Diet in Part Three of this series of articles.)

Measuring the Swings in Urine pH: What It Tells You

Measuring the pH of your urine does not show you the ‘pH of your body’. However, according to biochemistry and nutrition expert, Steven Fowkes, it can provide useful feedback about your metabolism if tracked every time you pee over a period of 2-5 days so that you can see the pattern of your metabolic rhythm. The body generates acids in response to the daily stresses of life, whether environmentally or otherwise induced. A healthy body with a good circadian rhythm will produce urine that swings from pH 5 during the day to pH 7 at night.7 This is because the pH of urine indicates any acid or alkaline excess the kidneys have recently accumulated for removal from the body in order to maintain balance. Keep in mind that the averaged pH of urine is slightly acidic (pH 6).8

Candida Thrives in an Alkaline Environment

All organisms, including pathogens, are dependent on specific pH levels for survival. Some microorganisms thrive in neutral pH environments (neutrophiles), some require alkaline environments (alkaliphiles), and others need highly acidic conditions (acidophiles).9

Candida is an example of a pathogen that thrives by producing an alkaline environment. 10

Cancer Cells Have a Neutral to Alkaline Internal pH.

Highly charged beliefs about the ‘need to become more alkaline’ centre around concerns about cancer.

The ‘alkalize or die’ theory revolves around the presumption that cancer cells cannot get established or persist in an alkaline environment. Studies indicate that this is not true.11

It appears that tumour cells maintain a slightly alkaline internal environment.12 They expel acids (hydrogen ions/protons) which result in an acidic environment around them. Contrary to popular belief, cancer cells produce the acidity, not the reverse.

End of Part Two.

Part Three of this series is entitled ‘Acidity Fuels Us. Alkalinity Restores Us.’
It will be about pH and the food we eat and will include the following clarifications.

See Part 1, Part 3 & Part 4 of this 4-part article series entitled ‘pH of the Body, Water & the Food We Eat’.

References for Part Two:

  1. Rachel Casiday and Regina Frey. Blood, Sweat, and Buffers: pH Regulation During Exercise Acid-Base Equilibria Experiment. http://www.chemistry.wustl.edu/~edudev/LabTutorials/Buffer/Buffer.html
  2. https://www.boundless.com/physiology/textbooks/boundless-anatomy-and-physiology-textbook/body-fluids-and-acid-base-balance-26/acid-base-balance-248/regulation-of-h-by-the-lungs-1218-37/
  3. https://www.boundless.com/physiology/textbooks/boundless-anatomy-and-physiology-textbook/body-fluids-and-acid-base-balance-26/acid-base-balance-248/the-role-of-the-kidneys-in-acid-base-balance-1219-9206/
  4. https://www.boundless.com/physiology/textbooks/boundless-anatomy-and-physiology-textbook/body-fluids-and-acid-base-balance-26/acid-base-balance-248/chemical-buffer-systems-1217-4810/
  5. John A Kellum. Determinants of blood pH in health and disease, Crit Care. 2000; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC137247/
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001181.htm
  7. http://projectwellbeing.com/ph-the-real-deal/
  8. https://www.rnceus.com/ua/uaph.html
  9. Microbial Growth at Low or High pH. Boundless Microbiology. Boundless, 26 May. 2016. https://www.boundless.com/microbiology/textbooks/boundless-microbiology-textbook/culturing-microorganisms-6/other-environmental-growth-factors-65/microbial-growth-at-low-or-high-ph-392-5693/
  10. Slavena Vylkova, Aaron J. Carman, Heather A. Danhof, John R. Collette, Huaijin Zhou, Michael C. Lorenz. The Fungal Pathogen Candida albicans Autoinduces Hyphal Morphogenesis by Raising Extracellular pH. http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC3101780/
  11. R.Griffiths. Are cancer cells acidic? Biomedical Magnetic Resonance Research Group,
    St George’s Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 ORE, UK. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1977628/pdf/brjcancer00073-0015.pdf
  12. ‘it is the extracellular pH (pHe) in tumors which is acidic while the intracellular pH (pHi) is neutral-to-alkaline.’ http://www.u.arizona.edu/~raghunan/Reprints/Raghunand_A12.pdf


The information in this article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article. Readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the authors, but readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries. The publisher is not responsible for errors or omissions.